Should we be concerned with regional variation in UK user research?
A good deal of UK UX (and other) user research is focused around London and the south east area of England. There are a number of reasons for this;
- London is the capital and largest city;
- Most of the big agencies are based in London;
- London has a large and diverse population making sampling and surveying more concentrated and economic;
- Agencies know and understand how research can be set up and made to work there.
There are probably others but I think you get the picture. London is pretty well researched to death. But does user research undertaken there give us the best balanced, comprehensive, reliable and accurate picture of potential user markets?
The quick answer is probably no – and for all sorts of reasons.
- Is the population of London representative of the population of the UK as a whole? The answer to this is almost certainly ‘no’. We all know that surveys are weighted and designed to capture respondents with particular characteristics; but does the average London resident share the same beliefs, attitudes, status, financial situation with their counterparts in other regions of the country?
- While many businesses have their HQ in London and probably have a higher profile in the city than in other parts of the UK, they might be wanting to make judgements on a wider, national scale and a London-centric user research might not give this breadth and variety nor provide the distance and angle required to get a 360 degree view.
- There can be fundamental differences in lifestyles between city and country dwellers – transport, media, internet availability, types and variety of employment and all these can contribute to different perspectives and values.
- From a UX viewpoint, users outside of a large metropolitan area might well interact with the internet differently to those in concentrated conurbations due to inaccessibility of services and products, a differing perception of what the internet provides and what its uses are or different lifestyles with perhaps more time but less choice and money or variance in spending patterns and priorities. (London consumers spend a good deal of their income on accommodation, transport and entertainment, for example.)
It is probably worth considering the potential differences in the audiences when commissioning user research, especially if you are trialling expansionist or innovative technologies or developments. The rate of acceptance and use – possibly even the manner and circumstances of people using the site and systems might well differ more than you imagine or a capital-centric test might imply.